Monday, March 31, 2008

A thousand ways to be patient

And all of them involve a blowtorch.

JB, possessor of all practical skills, first on anyone's list to bring into the shelter when the revolution comes, suggested that we see what we were made of where molten glass, flaming gasses, and manual dexterity come together in the art of bead making.

That's me at right, burning a perfectly good solid rod of glass into a glob of liquid glass so that I could reshape it into a sphere of glass. Why? Because it was there.

JB, Dr. A and I strode into the Open Studios with no expectations and only the goal of not setting ourselves on fire. We came out with this story to tell.

Last week, I talked around my Easter commitment to being a more patient person. (I admit I talked around it. I'm not going to talk about it. Some things are between me and Him.) I had come to this realization that "patient," and "passion" came from the same root word, Pati - to suffer. But also to endure. It was brought to me that it is not enough to be patient in your waiting for something to change. It is finding patience for those things that will not change, including perhaps yourself. It is not patience for a thing to happen; it is patience for a thing that stays constant.

I had to take several naps on Easter.

That is your prologue for a thousand ways to be patient while handling hot glass.
Do not count them. It's hyperbole.

Your instructor is not expecting you
That is, you were expected a month ago, but there was a snowstorm, and you were postponed. And you have been placed in an advanced class because there was only 1 other student in it. You and your 2 friends have now completely tipped the balance. Your instructor wastes no time in letting you know how she will have to cover 2 levels of material. No matter, you say, and smile at the advanced student and add "If that's all right with you ..." This will turn to your favor later.

You have to learn the basics of gas plumbing first
You weren't expecting to be squatting on a concrete floor learning about gas traps, perpendiculars, and the right mix of propane and natural gas (Holy Conflagration, Batman). But this is part of the beginner's syllabus, so you will listen and memorize 100 lbs of oxygen pressure, even though you are already thinking you may never do this again.

You must wear these

And you will make this joke

"You have big hands"
the instructor will say, as you measure your "hand's length" of flame. And it is true, your delicate Miss Bender has paws, but what she needs in this situation is advice on adjusting her flame, thanks.

You will work unbelievably close to that flame
Later, JB remarked she expected us to learn more fire safety. She said this long after she had burned herself and only Advanced Student went for the Bactine.

The jargon is kind of irritating
Any hobby's jargon is irritating -- Dr A admits she enjoys the secret language of things, but then she had the patience to get a PhD while you did not -- but these sounded made up. And were not better than words we already have.
mandrel - the spindle. In my left hand above.
frit - broken glass
giving it a bath - keeping your glass warm. Do not lick molten glass.

It is wicked hard
And your instructor is a little grabby.

It's a little culty
I met 4 beaders in 2 days. All of them wanted to know if we were coming back to their Bead Church.

By the way, I am fully aware I have lost my 2nd person narrative device. That acknowledgement is for Dr A, who will notice, and love me anyway. She's read worse.

It is expensive
The draw of joining the craft collaborative, of course, is that you have a studio provided for you (not like our Instructor's "play house" at home) but even the supplies will require a lot of output before any comes back on you. We figured that we had shelled about $10 per bead when all was said and done, but certainly it was not about bringing home the beads.

You don't get to take them home right away
(ah! 2nd person is back!) The brochure failed to mention that our work would have to anneal (Beadspeak for "heat") overnight and we would have to come back for them. "What if we had plans!" exclaimed the Dr. But of course we didn't.

You don't know what they will look like until you come back for them
And they may not look good.

I am pleased to report, though, that mine came out much better than I expected, and I almost wouldn't have believed it.

There was this one.... But then there were these.

And no, I am not instantly a better person.
But when I can't take the Sunday driving of my co-workers, and those in my care, I can now look at my beads.


  1. Who made the jaundiced glass kidneys?

  2. Fab account of the evening. Well-told. JB has already had an opportunity to have her beads admired. Which is good, since, well, they are indeed admirable.

    ==Dr. A.

  3. I want to be in your club. I think. I've limited myself to building potato launchers (more satisfying now than in 5th grade) but now there are new goals. Fire. Flame. First Aid.


  4. I had a great time! And for those concerned, my finger has healed.

  5. Wow! I just used the mysterious "mandrel" in a jewelry class to wrap sterling wire into coils so you could make your own chain links to create Byzantine chain bracelets. In my class, the "mandrel" was an aluminum knitting needle, so why not just call it a knitting needle? At least there was no fire involved and risk of injury (other than repetitive stress of the wrist and the brain)was low. Wish me luck on this week's class which will involve a gas torch and hot metal. I'll be sure to bring along the Bactine.


  6. The beads are lovely! Are these what they call "lampworked" beads? I've wondered about them since seeing a course listing at our local art/craft school, so thank you for the entertaining walk-through.


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